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A Central Australian cattle station claims it is losing more than 20 head of cattle a year to train collisions.
Umbeara station, 300 kilometres south of Alice Springs, has 138 kilometres of unfenced railway line travelling through it and its outstation Idracowra.
On a near weekly basis, owner and manager Angus McKay says he is alerted to cattle being hit somewhere along the line.
"It happens fairly often," he said.
"Sometimes you have a week like this where you lose three, then you might go a couple of months of nothing then you'll get another two or three."
The McKay family has been reaching out to One Rail for almost 12 months. (ABC Rural: Hugo Rikard-Bell)The track between Adelaide and Alice Springs travels across many different terrains, and between the boundaries of Umbeara and Idracowra there is a diverse landscape.
The McKay family have found the strikes are less common in spinifex and desert country, but are far more prevalent in overgrown, scrubby areas.
"In some places, it's so thick, they [trains] won't see the cattle till they're on top of them," Mr McKay said.
With current cattle prices, the cattle deaths from train collisions are costing the family upwards of $40,000 per year.
Mr McKay has been attempting to negotiate with One Rail, Australia's largest rail freight service provider, which operates the track.
He said there has been little response and is concerned about the rising animal welfare issues the train strikes are causing.
"It's been close to 12 months we've been talking with the operators to try and make something happen" Mr McKay said.
"They say they don't know what can be done."
A euthanised cow with a broken leg.((Supplied: Umbeara Station))A violent deathMost of the cattle hit by trains are killed on impact, but if they survive, they suffer grievous injuries and can often be left unable to move for days.
The animal becomes stressed, dehydrated, and often left to the elements until they either die from their injuries or are found and euthanased by the pastoralist.
"We found [one] probably two or three days at the side of the line with a broken leg — it had been there for a good few hours, thrashing around," Mr McKay said.
"Shooting livestock is a terrible thing to do ... we've got a duty of care to look after animals ... we've got to put them down immediately."
Who's responsible?The rail between Adelaide and Alice Springs was constructed in the 1970s.
Today the corridor, a roughly 200-metre-wide stretch of land that the rail sits on, is owned by the Australian Rail Track Corporation, and subleased to One Rail.
One Rail do contact the McKay family when they know they have hit one of his animals, with rough coordinates of the rail strike.
The Ghan travelling through Central Australia.(ABC News)However, sometimes the train conductor may not realise when a cow has been struck, so Mr McKay suspects the 20 head a year is a conservative number.
"We've got 130 kilometres along the railway ... we're already driving down the east [side of the rail] and we can't see what's on the western side," he said.
In a statement to ABC Rural, One Rail said it was "looking at alternatives to reduce cattle strikes" and said "it should be a joint responsibility with the landowner".
One Rail also confirmed it has "been in touch" with Mr McKay and "a representative from One Rail is meeting with them on site" in the coming week.
Rain is causing cattle to wanderBurrow pits, originally dug so the earth could be used for the rail's construction, are scattered along the line no more than 100 metres away from the track.
"They [burrow pits] catch water from the rain ... they're [cattle] attracted to the water along the rail" Mr McKay explained.
Mr McKay does not want to fence the rail as doing so would impact the entire layout of his family's property.
"Mainly we want the line cleared. So at least the train can see the cattle… whoever's driving the train has got the chance to get on the horn scare the cattle off," Mr McKay said.
"We've been here for 60 years; I've never seen it cleared in my time."
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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